I saw an ad by Lexus that made me think this week. Not about buying a Lexus mind you (it’s just an overpriced Toyota) but about driving in general.
The basic thought behind it was, “drive while you still can”, because self-driving cars are just around the corner and will be here, well, as soon as they figure out how to get around that corner I guess.
Which got me thinking “would I want to buy a self-driving car?” Which was immediately followed by, “no goddamn way!” Followed by “shit, I’m becoming my dad.”
Look I get that self-driving cars are the future. The NEAR future. All the car companies are working on it. Google’s working on it. Apple is on it. Hell even Blackberry is on it! (which gives a little hope that it may yet fail, but still). Basically everyone in technology or cars is coming together to make sure we never have to drive a car again. Which seems weird to me. It’s like a food company that sells “previously chewed food” so we don’t have to go through the effort of chewing it ourselves. Essentially, baby food for adults. But most adults I know like chewing their own food just like most adults I know like driving. Hell even my toddler scrambles into the driver’s seat in our car whenever she can, because she knows that’s the seat that’s in control (note: we don’t do this while driving. Which I suppose we could in a self-driving car. So…point taken)
Driving is one of the last bastions of control over large machinery most of us have. When I get behind the wheel of a car, I still feel roughly the same as I did when I got my driver’s license the day after I turned 16. It’s not unlike when the Somalian pirate in the Tom Hanks movie Captain Phillips says “I’m the captain now!” Although in fairness, me getting into a car is usually a much less hostile situation than boarding a ship as a pirate. But the thought is, “I’m in control of this vessel! I’m going where I want! And I’m going to make “good time” (that last thought is actually in my dad’s voice).
I like the feeling of steering a car in the exact direction I want it, travelling slightly faster than the posted speed limit and, if I’m being honest, yelling “constructive criticism” at the other drivers on the road, all of whom are of “not as experienced as me” and “drive like total arseholes” (again, full credit here to John Chester Patterson)
Point is, until ALL cars on the road are self-driving it doesn’t matter how great the technology is, it’s not going to be safe. Because humans don’t drive like machines. Which, granted, is sometimes horrible, as in the case of careless or drunk drivers, but sometimes is absolutely mesmerizing as in the case of top-notch racecar drivers! Or bottom-notch parallel parkers.
Sure, self-driving cars might eventually only go the speed limit, will always keep a safe distance between themselves and will never yell creative obscenities at each other out the window (though this might be a nice option to help ease the transition) But it also puts our entire faith in high-speed technology in the most literal way yet (other than airplanes, elevators, amusement park rides, etc. etc. etc.)…Look. I JUST LIKE DRIVING ALRIGHT!? AND YOU CAN HAVE MY STEERING WHEEL WHEN YOU CAN PRY IT OUT OF MY COLD DEAD HANDS!
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go shopping for a new Lexus. If nothing else, to “drive while I still can” and to try to convince myself that I’m not my dad (he’s always been a Pontiac man)
I wrote this entire article, ironically I guess, in the backseat of a car while someone else was driving.